Remembering Jason Polan

Today was the funeral for Jason Polan, my classmate from second grade through college. Two things were evident from childhood: he was talented and he was kind. (He was also the cutest eight-year-old, and thus the first object of my affection.) His elementary school doodles became murals in high school and a thrice-weekly comic strip in our college paper. Then he went to New York and quietly made a name for himself, drawing prolifically, showing and publishing his work, collaborating with everyone from the New York Times to Nike, Marvel to Warby Parker, Tartine to Momofuku. Every new accomplishment would make me so excited, not just because I knew him but because he was such a good person — and what’s more gratifying than seeing a genuinely good person succeed?

Jason’s kindness was palpable even in the pictures and observations he posted on Instagram. Also apparent there is his delight in the details of everyday life, in silly coincidences, in the people and things that most would consider background noise. Everything fascinated him, and he made you see how fascinating everything is.

*

Many of these qualities can be traced to his incredible family — especially his mother, who everyone knew because she ran the PTA and pretty much everything else in our community — and I am devastated for them. Jason’s sister Jennifer died of a brain hemorrhage at 23, two days before he and I graduated from high school. His parents have already had to bury two of their three children.

That is just not right.

*

Last year, the Atlantic published a profile of Ocean Vuong that was written by Kat Chow, who had gone to the same high school. While they hadn’t overlapped there, that shared experience grounded their conversation beautifully. After reading that piece, I wondered if I could do a similar interview with Jason when I was further along in my career. I wanted to know what his experience of high school was like, how his sister’s death changed his work and his relationship with his family, what it was like for him to live in New York when his disposition was so thoroughly Midwestern and he was so close with his family. After he died on Monday, I found myself adding to the list of questions I will never get to ask: When you are so good at seeing and celebrating the minutiae of life, when you delight in small, lovely moments of human connection and compassion, when you are so finely tuned to the tiny details of being alive that most of us never see because we’re too damn busy running from place to place — what is it like to realize that all of that is coming to an end?

*

I am mourning the loss of a childhood friend and an immensely gifted artist, but more than anything, I’m mourning the loss of a really good person. I thought that about you often, Jason. In a world full of assholes, you were quietly kind to everyone, strangers and friends alike — never drawing attention to it, just being who you are, no matter where you were. The world is darker and less delightful without you in it.

*

Obituaries and articles:

A few of the many tributes on the internet:

Introducing the Top Five Podcast

My friend Chris and I love podcasts and we couldn’t find one where two Asian Americans talk about pop culture of all kinds, so we decided to make the podcast we wished to see in the world. Our first four episodes are now up on iTunes/Google Play/Spotify/everything! A few of the things we’ve talked about so far: Always Be My Maybe. Our top five problematic faves. The most adult things we’ve done in the last year. Our top five power couples. The Farewell. Our top five albums of the ’90s. It’s been really fun and we’re so excited to share this and to keep making it. If you’d like, you can follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and stream us here.

The PAAC Lent Devotional

Last month, a member of Progressive Asian American Christians asked if anyone knew of a commentary or devotional that was maybe a little more progressive and maybe not written by a white man. No one knew of anything, but another member wondered if we could make one ourselves. Within 72 hours, she had gathered (and scheduled!) more than enough people to make one for every day of Lent, including not just writers but also illustrators and photographers and calligraphers and dancers.

Today is the first day of said devotional, and I couldn’t be more stoked. I haven’t done anything in Lent for years, so i’m looking forward to actually doing something. And more than that, I’m so proud of this amazing team for seeing a need and creating something beautiful to meet it.

Finding a Therapist

Starting therapy isn’t easy; once you’ve made the decision to go, you then have to find a therapist, which is no small task.  As I’ve written previously, finding a therapist isn’t like finding a dentist or a mechanic; how you feel about your therapist has everything to do with how well your therapy will go, which isn’t the case for most people who provide you services.

So if you’re in the market for a therapist, here’s what I recommend:

1.  Ask around.  If you know someone who’s been in therapy and you feel comfortable doing this, ask who they see and if they like working with them.

Since you may not know anyone who’s seeing a therapist — or at least is public about it — this may not be a viable option.  But if you do, having someone you know and trust vouch for a therapist is a huge deal.

2.  Psychology Today has a Find a Therapist directory; you can enter your zip code and find a list of therapists in your area.  Each therapist’s profile usually includes a blurb about how they work, areas of specialty, fees, and the like.  Do a search, find a few who fit your needs and whose profiles resonate with you, and give them a call.  Almost every therapist I know in private practice has a profile there.

3.  Below is a list of therapists I would recommend.  Since I went to school in LA, my list is disproportionately skewed toward Southern California and where my classmates have dispersed around the country, so I apologize if your city/state/entire geographical region is neglected.  But for those who do live in these areas, every person on this list is someone I would be willing to see myself.

A few things to keep in mind in the process:

– Just as medical doctors have different specialties and techniques, so too do therapists.  It may be helpful, as you look for one, to inquire how they work and if they have experience working with the kind of issue you’re dealing with.

– Since finding a therapist who’s a good fit is so important, you might need to try a few before you find one you like.  It can take some time, but many therapists offer free consultations, either in person or by phone, which is helpful.  The extra time and effort is worth it.

I wish you the best on your search, and if there’s anything I can do to help, feel free to shoot me an email.

***

Los Angeles County

Mackenzie Abraham (Redondo Beach)

Whitney Dicterow (Westwood)

Katie Flores (Pasadena)

Michelle Harwell (Eagle Rock)

Gary Hayashi (South Pasadena)

Martin Hsia (Glendale)

Peter Huang (Pasadena)

Broderick Leaks (Glendale)

Hanna Lee (Cal Poly Pomona Student Health and Counseling Services*)

Angela Liu (Pasadena)

Jennifer Shim Lovers (Pasadena)

Jeremy Mast (Sierra Madre)

Shauna McManus (Pasadena)

Loretta Mead (Whitter)

Ani Vartazarian (Westwood)

Orange County

Jessica Eldridge (UC Irvine Counseling Center*)

Lindsay Golden (Newport Beach)

Negar Shekarabi (Irvine; also UC Irvine Counseling Center*)

David Wang (Fullerton)

Riverside County

Jennifer Hung (Corona; also UC Riverside Counseling Center*)

Loretta Mead (Riverside; also UC Riverside Counseling Center*)

Santa Barbara

Steve Rogers

Fresno

Ya-Shu Liang (Fresno State Student Health Center*)

Bay Area

Katie Byron (Redwood City)

Sarah Kasuga-Jenks (Berkeley)

Danielle Vanaman (Castro Valley)

Seattle

Judith Hong Cho

Boston

Sarah Moon

New York City

Elena Kim

Ellen Lee

Nikki Rubin

Chicago

Stephan Gombis

Crystal Kannankeril

Eunia Lee (Naperville)

Tracy Leman (Hinsdale)

Michigan

Maechi Chue (Troy)

Tim Hogan (Detroit)

Pearl Stewart (Troy)

Dan Zomerlei (Grandville)

Nashville

Lauren King

Brittany Rader

Charlotte

Kelley Bolton

Austin

Melody Li

Ryan Spencer

Boulder

Lindsay Sturgeon

Boise

Chris Waters

* Therapists working at university counseling centers can be seen only by students enrolled in that university.